Botswana in a Robbie

Two-seat R22 and four-seat R44 helicopters.

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tanglefoot
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Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:39 pm

Finally getting around to putting out a chronicle of our Bots trip. We left Rand on 31/07 and arrived back on 08/08 after 14.9hrs of flying. As a trip it was fantastic but there are large sections of nothing with moments of sheer pleasure. (Probably better than a fixed wing with large sections of nothing with moments of sheer terror :D )

For ZS aircraft no overflight permission is required. A flightplan and declaration suffice. With the reassurance from Avcom's Zulu Ben that Avgas is available at Francistown, Kasane and Maun we embarked on a 1500nm journey in our little R44, getting a low level view of Botswana that very few have experienced. The only helicopters that we saw on our journey belonged to the police or the defence force.

ATC were beyond helpful and went out of their way to assist. Flight plans are required for all flights from a manned airport and there is a special "Pilot's briefing" office where you can sit in air conditioned luxury and fill in your flight plan and pay your landing fees.

Getting out of SA is the worst part. We flew via Polokwane (1.8hrs) stopped at the fuel bay. Everybody is always helpful but the problem lies with Customs. They are friendly but officious. They have a job to do, they just don't know what that job is.

Anyway, Customs and Emigration done we are back in RUT for the 1.9hrs to Francistown. Crossing the Limpopo it is impossible to raise any Info. We tried to climb (as high as a helicopter could be expected to climb), we tried to relay our position but no luck there as well. What the heck, just carry on, nobody seems to care anyway.

35nm out we call Francistown tower. Heck, someone with impeccable english replies!!! Field in sight is a problem at 600ft AGL. There is nothing to change the horizon. 5nm out we can see a huge scar on the ground and I correctly identify that as the airfield. we get to park on the main apron, 50m from immigration. I don't think that Botswana have customs. the immigration process is seamless with barcode scanners and minimal paperwork.

We get collected by Dominique, manager/owner at Dumela Lodge (http://www.dumelalodge.com) and get treated royally in a safari tented lodge on the outskirts of Francistown.

After a good night's sleep and a huge breakfast we were returned to Francistown Airport for the next leg of our journey.
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The stadium was started before the 2010 Soccer world cup. It was never finished and apparently has structural problems
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We parked next to the piper fixed wing thingy on the left
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by echodelta » Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:30 pm

So where's the rest? :twisted: :wink:
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:32 pm

echodelta wrote:So where's the rest? :twisted: :wink:
I was waiting to see if anyone was interested :D I drafted day 2 over the weekend and when I hit preview it all disappeared. Didn't have the enthusiasm to redo it at the time. Will tackle it again this evening!
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by echodelta » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:47 pm

I always highlight everything I typed and hit Ctrl-C before I click anything. That way if it bombs out I can just paste it and try again.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:28 pm

echodelta wrote:I always highlight everything I typed and hit Ctrl-C before I click anything. That way if it bombs out I can just paste it and try again.
I find that hitting the <Back> button normally works ok. This time I tried to reload first and it failed a 2nd time. Wouldn't let me go back :( . Give me 20min and I'll post the next day.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:08 pm

Well, here goes.

Our arrival at Francistown was a bit of a mess. We landed on the main apron as instructed by ATC to clear customs. We then went to the fuel bay 1km away at the old terminal building and then relocated to the main apron for the night. As luck would have it they couldn't process our fuel payment so the next morning we relocated back to the fuel bay only to find that their new card terminal wasn't working. We finally agreed to pay the bill at Kasane, same fuel company, different place.

The leg to Kasane was 2.4hrs, 240nm. A "low level" routing gave us some options and we would swoop down in the middle of nowhere to find something to amuse ourselves with. A river or two made the only change to the bushy vista.

A direct routing to Kasane cuts through a corner of Zim. Finding the border wasn't too difficult, a squiggly white scar, and we followed it until we could again route direct.

Kasane is in a bit of a valley and from our alt you couldn't see the airport until about 6nm out. The telltale white scar in the bushveld made it easy. We slowed down for a fixed wing on late finals and crossed behind, stopping in our parking spot before he even cleared the runway.

Pickup for the The Old House was waiting and based on our previous experience we left the refueling and landing fees until we returned.

The old Francistown terminal building. Much more character than the new one
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The unfinished stadium in the background taken from the fuel bay. Apparently it was built for the english team to practise at for the world cup. Has structural problems and the Chinese contractor was chased away
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A river!!! A great find in a featureless landscape
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Kasane Airport
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Our parking spot
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:23 pm

We spent the night at The Old House (http://www.oldhousekasane.com/) We were picked up by Luke, one of the owners. We dodged the warthogs in the main street in Kasane while he chatted away about being born and bred in Botswana with a Pretoria education.

The old house is a well run establishment and a watering hole for locals. Food is good and the room and bed was equally great.

This was our overnight stop before boarding the Zambezi Queen for the highlight of our trip.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by echodelta » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:30 am

Nice! Thanks for posting.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:44 pm

Day 3,4,5 were spent on a luxury houseboat on the Chobe river. (http://zambeziqueen.com/location.php)

There are 14 cabins and everything is laid on. Food is superb and if you like birding from the comfort of a motorboat then you can notch up close on 100 species in 2 days. They also do tigerfish fishing and game viewing excursions, all from the comfort of a motorboat with drinks laid on.

It is sold as a 'river cruise' but it is more of a houseboat. We did relocate up the Chobe river for one day and then back again the next so that would cover the 'cruise' bit. Nevertheless, waking up in the morning and looking out over the balcony to see elephant, hippo, buffalo, you name it, was absolute bliss.

The houseboat is moored in Namibian waters so to get there we have to clear emigration at Kasane, take a motorboat across the river and clear immigration in Namibia. With a trip to Chobe national park included we managed to fill up more than a page in our passports with Namibian/Botswana immigration stamps.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:59 pm

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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:25 pm

Day 6 is back to Kasane, flightplan, refuel and go.

I requested an early turnout and low level up the Chobe. Weather was magnificent, viz was great and it was good fun winding our way up the river, taking a short cut every now and then and generally doing what helicopters do best.

After about 1/2hour the Chobe river dried up and we changed our heading to route direct to Maun.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:26 pm

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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:02 am

Coming into Maun the tell tale white scar in the bush gives away the location of Maun Airport. About 30nm out we could already see signs of the Okavango Delta and were really looking forward to our trip into the Delta after refuelling.

For the last time we made the mistake of refuelling first. The most efficient way of getting through Botswana airports is Flight Plan, Landing Fees, Refueling, Go. If it is an overnighter then Park on arrival. On departure Flightplan, Landing Fees, Refueling, Go.

After refuelling we relocated closer to the terminal building. The parking area was pretty full and we battled to find a spot where we didn't blow the adjacent aircraft away. Anyway, we picked a nice big aery to park next to and hoped it would stay put!!!
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:12 am

The half hour flight into the delta was far too short. I slowed down to 80kts but even then the tail wind had us doing over 90kt over the ground.

We passed a motor boat or two but never saw a lodge. Even on late finals for Delta Camp the 3 lodges are totally obscured by the vegetation.
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Re: Botswana in a Robbie

Unread post by tanglefoot » Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:12 pm

20 years ago Oddballs (http://lodgesofbotswana.com/camps_lodges/oddballs) used to be a self catering (self accommodating) place on the edge of Moremi National park. Nothing much has changed other than the accommodation which is now small tents built onto raised platforms. There is a flushing toilet built into the raised platform with running water that feeds a bucket shower. The hot water is solar heated and while we were there there was plenty but I suspect if the place fills up that hot water could be at a premium.

The food is catered but was really not up to standard. Beans seem to form a basis for everything that is cooked. If you ever want bean pizza go to oddballs!!!!!

Next to Oddballs is Oddballs enclave with 8 spacious tents. They also have bucket showers but they have a chef so I suspect that the food is somewhat better.

Anyway, once we had gotten over our Bean pizza we settled down to enjoy our stay. You get a personal guide who takes you out on Mokoro (dug out canoe) trips to Chief's Island where you walk through the bush looking for lions, buffalo and anything dangerous while the guide tries his best to keep you safe and away from anything dangerous.
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Last edited by tanglefoot on Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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